Science & Technology
Governor Quinn Announces Illinois is First in the Nation in Renewable Energy Use PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Katie Hickey   
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 12:41

New Report says 91 Illinois Communities Have Achieved 100 Percent Renewable Electricity

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that a new report has found Illinois leads the nation in the number of communities using renewable electricity. The report shows 91 Illinois communities have achieved 100 percent renewable electricity, far more than any other state. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to protect our natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“Renewable energy benefits everyone, from energy customers to Illinois farmers to anyone who breathes our air,” Governor Quinn said. “This new study confirms that people around the world can look to Illinois as an example of what can be done with renewable energy.”

The report was released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association and George Washington University Solar Institute.

"This report shows the strong public demand for renewable energy across Illinois, and the potential for solar energy and wind power to drive sustainable development in communities from Carbondale to Evanston," Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center said.

The 91 communities that have transitioned to 100 percent renewable electricity represent more than 1.7 million individuals. According to the report, demand for renewable energy from the state is more than six terawatt hours, a reduction in greenhouse gas comparable to taking more than one million cars off the road.

A 2009 Illinois law allows communities to buy their own electricity and more than 600 have done so, including the 91 who buy renewable energy directly or buy credits to help fund renewable energy development. Renewable energy includes such sources as solar, wind and biofuels.

The 91 Illinois communities that use 100 percent renewable electricity are Alton, Arlington Heights, Aurora, Bartonville, Beecher, Bethalto, Bolingbrook, Braidwood, Brimfield, Buffalo Grove, Carbondale, Cary, Champaign County, Channahon, Charleston, Coal City, Columbia, Crete, Creve Coeur, Decatur, Deer Creek, Dunlap, East Peoria, Easton, Edwardsville, Elwood, Evanston, Forest City, Frankfort, Glen Carbon, Glendale Heights, Godfrey, Granite City, Hanna City, Hartford, Havana, Henry, Homer Glen, Hopewell, Jacksonville, Kenilworth, Kilbourne, Lake Forest, Lemont, Lisle, Mackinaw, Manito, Marion, Marquette Heights, Marshall County, Mason County, McLean, Monticello, Morton, Normal, Norridge, North Pekin, Oak Park, Paris, Park Forest, Pekin, Peoria, Peoria County, Peoria Heights, Peotone, Plainfield, Riverside, Roanoke, Rockdale, Rolling Meadows, Romeoville, Roxana, San Jose, Shorewood, South Barrington, South Pekin, South Roxana, Sparland, Stanford, Stark County, Tazewell County, Toluca, Topeka, Urbana, Warrenville, Washburn, Washington, West Frankfort, West Peoria, Westmont and Woodridge.

To view the full report, visit gocleangolocal.org/illinoisreport/.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Illinois is fifth in the nation for the generation of electricity from wind power with more than seven million megawatt-hours in 2012. According to a study by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, the state’s 23 largest wind farms created approximately 19,047 full-time equivalent jobs and supported approximately 814 permanent jobs in rural Illinois.

The Quinn administration has taken the lead in the use of renewable fuels, converting much of the state’s vehicle fleet to Flex Fuel Vehicles and providing incentives for retailers to dispense biofuels. The state also offers an Alternative Fuel Vehicle rebate program, providing rebates for nearly 12,500 vehicle purchases since the program began in 1999.

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Which Social Media Platforms are Right for You? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 17:02
By: Marsha Friedman

If you want to be visible in today’s marketplace, you absolutely must have a presence on social media.

But there are so many from which to choose nowadays! In addition to the biggies like Facebook and Twitter, we have lots of newcomers, including Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Additionally, some of the older platforms have undergone major changes in recent months, which affect how effective they are for different functions.

How to know which platforms will best meet your needs?

I asked Alex Hinojosa, our vice president for media operations at EMSI Public Relations, to share some tips for helping you decide.

First, he says, if you plan to handle your social media marketing yourself, try different platforms and use ones with features you enjoy. That will help ensure you stick with it, and may lead you to create inspired content that’s more likely to be shared.

Be on at least two platforms, he says. (If one’s mostly personal stuff for family and friends, it doesn’t count!)

Here’s Alex’s rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of the four most popular platforms:

• Facebook: This works best if you’re an individual interacting on a personal level, as opposed to a business. Artists, authors, public speakers and certain other professionals may benefit from having potential customers get to know them on a more personal basis.

A downside to Facebook is that, in an effort to make money for shareholders, it has begun requiring users to pay for the potentially unlimited visibility that used to be free.

• Twitter: Posts are limited to 140 characters – about the length of a headline – and can include a photo or link to a website. This is a great network for getting to know people without sharing a lot of personal information. Plus, you can follow whomever you want, and anyone can follow you.

“It allows you to easily connect with prospects and potential associates, so it’s great for businesses,” Alex says. “People use it primarily as a source of news, which makes it easy to interact with people you don’t know – you have something to talk about.”

Twitter is now aggressively cleaning house of “robot” followers – dummy accounts sold for cheap that make it look like the buyer has a huge following. Even if you don’t buy robots, you may end up with some as followers.

“Don’t buy followers and delete any of your followers that don’t appear real. Twitter limits how many followers you can have, so you don’t want to waste them on ‘bots,” Alex says.

• LinkedIn: The social network for professionals is a good place to find and meet people within and outside your industry. People can easily see your credentials and endorse your skills. The background information on your profile page – where you went to school, other companies you’ve been associated with – provides great fodder for finding common ground with strangers and building relationships.

• Google+: The Google search engine favors anything posted on Google+, which is great for SEO. It also combines the best features of Facebook and Twitter, including photo sharing and categorizing content using hashtags (#).

“Right now, Google+ can be anything you want it to be,” Alex says. “It’s still new, just more than 2 years old, so it’s still defining itself. I think it will be the next social networking giant.”

As Alex suggests, if you plan to handle your social media marketing yourself, take into consideration the modes of networking that you enjoy along with the best platforms to meet your needs.

If you have limited experience in social media, jump into the platforms that seem to best align with your goals. You’ll have a learning curve, but a little practice goes a long way. And you’ll soon wonder why you didn’t get more involved a long time ago!

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a 24-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, The PR Insider. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman.

 
Governor Quinn Announces Illinois is the Nation’s Top Green Building State PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Katie Hickey   
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:02

U.S. Green Building Council Ranks Illinois Number One in the Sustainable Building Design Movement

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the U.S. Green Building Council has ranked Illinois number one among all 50 states in the sustainable building design movement. Illinois has more than 29 million square feet of certified green buildings, or 2.29 square feet for every resident. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that a smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) ranking of the Top 10 States for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) highlights the regions around the country that are at the forefront of the movement for sustainable building design, construction and operation. Utilizing less energy and water, LEED-certified spaces save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce carbon emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

“In the face of the extraordinary global challenge of climate change, our national imperative to create resource-efficient and cost-effective green buildings has never been greater,” USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi said. “Illinois has a strong base of dedicated individuals who are using LEED to transform its built infrastructure into high-performing spaces that promote the health of our planet and the people who use these buildings each and every day.”

“Illinois’ national ranking is the result of the robust network of businesses committed to sustainability working together with elected officials who understand the benefits of green building,” said Brian Imus, executive director of the Chicago-based USGBC Illinois Chapter. “It’s great to see passion from so many people making an impact and moving Illinois closer to the goal of everyone living, working and learning in a green and healthy building.”

The per-capita list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified throughout 2013. Illinois certified 171 projects representing 29,415,284 square feet of real estate, or 2.29 square feet per resident, in 2013. USGBC calculates the list using per-capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building, allowing for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and, accordingly, number of overall buildings.

A few notable projects that certified in Illinois in 2013 include:

·         The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, LEED Gold

·         Choices Mental Health Facility in Ottawa, LEED Platinum

·         300 North LaSalle, a 57-story, 1.3 million-square-foot tower in Chicago developed and managed by USGBC Platinum Member Hines, LEED Platinum

·         The Caterpillar Visitors Center in Peoria, LEED Gold

·         Engine Company 16 in Chicago, LEED Platinum

·         Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, LEED Platinum

·         Powell Elementary School in Chicago, LEED Gold

·         Lincoln Land Community College Workforce Development Center in Springfield, LEED Silver

The full ranking of the top 10 states includes:

 

Rank

State

Projects certified in 2013

Square feet LEED certified in 2013

Per-capita square footage

1

Illinois

171

29,415,284

2.29

2

Maryland

119

12,696,429

2.20

3

Virginia

160

16,868,693

2.11

4

Massachusetts

101

13,684,430

2.09

5 (tie)

New York

259

37,839,395

1.95

5 (tie)

California

595

72,729,476

1.95

6

Oregon

47

6,991,942

1.83

7

North Carolina

133

17,183,099

1.80

8

Colorado

124

8,894,187

1.77

9

Hawaii

17

2,323,379

1.71

10

Minnesota

51

8,205,155

1.55

*

Washington, D.C.

106

19,524,216

32.45

*Washington, D.C., is not ranked as it is a federal district, not a state.

Collectively, 1,777 commercial and institutional projects became LEED certified within the top 10 states in 2013, representing 226.8 million square feet of real estate. Worldwide, 4,642 projects were certified in 2013, representing 596.8 million square feet.

More than 20,000 projects representing 2.9 billion square feet of space have been LEED-certified worldwide, with another 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet in the pipeline for certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. Their LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of green buildings. More than 57,000 commercial and institutional projects are currently participating in LEED, comprising 10.5 billion square feet of construction space in 147 countries and territories. In addition, more than 50,000 residential units have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system. Learn more at usgbc.org/LEED.

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“What is technology?” PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Michelle Tigani   
Friday, 14 February 2014 14:55

by Kara Kerwin

For being the U.S.’s most-watched live event ever, Super Bowl XLVIII was pretty uninspiring.

What was inspiring, however, was the uplifting ad Microsoft ad featuring former NFL safety and ALS patient Steve Gleason, along with other people with disabilities, using innovative new technologies to make life easier. Gleason’s use of a Microsoft product called the Surface gave him the ability to provide voicing for the commercial in heart-rending fashion.

The ad opens with a simple question on the screen as Gleason (in tech-aided voice-over) asks: “What is technology?” As the answers come, “…it unites us…” “…It inspires us…” “…It has taken us to places we never thought we would go…” emotional scenes of tech in action are shown, including a child running on a pair of prosthetic legs, a deaf woman excitedly using an implant to hear a doctor, and a elderly man once blind now able to use a computer efficiently, exclaiming, “Now I can do whatever I want!” The ad concludes with a simple tagline: ‘Empowering us all.’

It’s an effective promo. Even though a vast majority of us don’t know the technological workings of helping a blind man see, who can argue with the ultimate outcome? It’s common sense, really.

As I add another view to the two million the video already has on YouTube, I catch a classroom—pause, rewind, and instant replay. It must have been just a millisecond’s worth of a clip, but it’s there. A classroom full of students ecstatically shares a lesson with another group of their peers remotely through video chat. “Wow,”I think to myself. “That’s common sense too, right?” Sadly, America doesn’t treat it as such, at least not in implementation. The concept is agreeable and runs seamlessly with the rest of the ad’s message. For all the first-down tech innovation we apply to our lives’ every facet, we fail to take the education of our nation’s children with us to the end zone. Each generation of our students will have lives more immersed in tech than the last. America’s first-graders were born after the iPhone was released.

“What can it do?” the commercial asks.

Ninth-grader Vincent Zhou, the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Junior Men's National Champion, is an online student who one day might be a part of the same Olympic games that are happening now in Sochi, Russia. Vincent is also among the three hundred thousand U.S. students who attended school online last year, and he knows full well what it can do. Vincent goes to Capistrano Connections Academy in California. Young athletes like Vincent are interested in digital learning, whether wholly online or blended, so they can balance a busy training schedule, just one of many reasons families around the country make the decision to take an alternative approach to education.

Online public schools mix typical class structure with the ease of online learning. With no tuition requirement for most online schools, over thirty states offered full-time online schools in multiple districts, respectively, at the end of 2012. Some online schools belong to a local school district, like Appleton School District in northern Wisconsin. Through online schooling, a student can attend school in Appleton despite living over 100 miles away. No wonder over 60 percent of Americans support digital and blended learning.

Students who graduate from the Ohio Connections Academy, a school authorized by the Ohio Council of Community Schools, receive the exact same diploma as their traditional school peers. Connections is one of a growing number of national educators providing online resources and curriculum to public and private schools across all community demographics. At Connections, parents and teachers work together to provide several lines of support at home and elsewhere. Schools like Connections provide online portals and digital tools to help students stay organized with everything they need at their fingertips.

Nexus Academy, a blended learning educator with locations across multiple states, uses daily online lectures as students do most of their schoolwork independently, meeting regularly to discuss progress and set unique goals with teachers and parents, through face-to-face meetings and video calls.

Construction for a brand new Wheaton High School is underway in Silver Spring, MD as part of Montgomery County’s new plan to infuse “new innovative strategies” into students’ education. But the innovation that Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr defines as “embracing the new” is in stark contrast to the common sense applications from that Super Bowl commercial. The recognition for the need is there. Will we continue to build new housing for old, tired methods, or will we make education adapt to our students, what they need, and the lives they will live beyond schooling?

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Kara Kerwin is President of The Center for Education Reform, a K-12 education policy and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.

 
Unprecedented wind power growth in 2014 -- let's keep it going! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Aaron Severn   
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 14:14

Here at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), we recently released some exciting news – that the U.S. has more wind projects under construction right now than ever before.

Here are some more highlights from our
Fourth Quarter 2013 Market Report

  • There is enough wind power under construction in the U.S. to power the equivalent of 3.5 million American homes, or all of the households in Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas – that’s over 12,000 megawatts (MW) in total.
  • Some of the states poised for major growth in wind energy include Texas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and Michigan.
  • U.S. manufacturing production capacity has ramped up dramatically, with major manufacturing facilities active in Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota.

In contrast, however, the amount of wind power installed in the U.S. this past year is the smallest the country has seen in the past nine years – only 1,084 MW, a 92% drop from 2012.

The reason for this contrast is the lack of certainty about federal policy, particularly the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) that help project developers finance wind projects.

Throughout 2012, the wind industry did not know if the tax credits would be extended, so business came to a halt – thus resulting in the small amount of new wind power installed last year.

When the PTC was extended at the beginning of 2013, the industry quickly rebounded, signing a record number of agreements to sell wind power, and starting construction on projects in at least 20 states.

We are once again without policy certainty.  Congress did not act on tax legislation in 2013, and so the PTC was allowed to expire for the fifth time in its history on January 1, 2014.

I urge you to write to your federal legislators today.  Show them both the disappointing year that the wind industry had in 2013, and the exciting year that is coming up in 2014.  Ask them to support extensions of the PTC and ITC, so that businesses in the wind industry can have the certainty they need to develop clean, homegrown, affordable power.

 
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